About Me

An utterly pointless anecdote

Guinness mug

Guinness mug

The first time I went to Dublin, I brought back souvenirs for family and friends. I remember that for my dad, I bought a Guinness mug, like this one.

My dad didn’t really have much use for it, so it sat in the cupboard for a while, unused. At some point I adopted it for my own – I can’t remember whether this happened while I was still living with my parents, or when I moved out, or whether I actually claimed it during a visit to their house after I had already moved out.

For many years, it has been my “office” mug, and has contained maybe 1000 cups of tea or coffee per annum.

This was an utterly pointless anecdote.

About Me Meander

Aunt Rachel

Today I went to my Aunt Rachel’s funeral. I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing there, to be honest. She was never interested in me, my sister or my son, and I was never interested in her. There were no specific things about her that I disliked, we just had nothing in common.

I spent most of the ceremony sat in the front row feeling like a fraud. Behind me were rows and rows of people, Rachel’s friends. I expect that most of them didn’t even know that she had a nephew. I felt that they were her real family, not me. They were the ones who would miss her. I sat and listened, feeling a lump in my throat here and there, looking to my left to gauge my dad’s reaction, to my right to see my sister’s. My dad was staring ahead, his face betraying no emotion. My sister would catch my eye whenever I turned to her, her face reading as something like “assuming that you’re thinking the same thing as me, then yes, I agree.” Anyone with a sibling will know that one.

As the ceremony ended, the first person to leave was John, her husband. And as he passed in front of me, I saw an expression in his face that turned the whole afternoon on its head. There was the determination of a man who was focussed on making sure that his wife got the send-off that she would have wanted. There was the relief of a man who was glad that his wife’s 20 month dalliance with cancer was over. And there was the despair of a man who had lost the woman that he loved, the one that he had chosen, the one that he had lived every day with. I realised – there’s a man that has lost his Karen.

And my concerns about feeling like a fraud were suddenly insignificant.

Incidentally, Rachel’s decision to have Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood played as her coffin was removed from a black motorcycle sidecar and carried into the crematorium was fucking awesome. I shit ye not.

About Me Peril

Maybe it’s time to deactivate my Facebook account

Some humiliations never die.

When I was 13 years old, I made an utter tit of myself over a girl. Actually, I did that about a dozen times over the course of my teenage years. But one, in particular, was particularly cringeworthy ((as an aside, I’m thinking that one of these days I should write a top 5 embarrassing crushes blog post, in the style of *High Fidelity*)). I declared my undying love for a tall blonde girl, wrote her letters, the most hideously gloopy kind of shit. The tragic thing was that she wasn’t the kind of girl who appreciates romance and perseverance and all that, so I really was casting my pearls before swine. She wanted an in-crowd kind of guy, ideally one who was more than 10 years older than her. What was I thinking?

Eventually I woke up and realised that she was a phenomenally unremarkable girl, and that I was actually lucky that she’d deflected my advances for so long. And like that, it was all over. I was civil to her when I saw her around school, but that was it.

Nine minutes ago, I received a Facebook invitation from her. I don’t use Facebook any more, but I have subscribed to the RSS feed of my contacts’ status updates, and I still receive emails when people send me a friend invitation (though I don’t bother acting on them). In her invitation, she made a reference to one of the things that I wrote in one of my love letters. I’m not going to repeat it here, because this is my site, and you can’t make me incriminate myself.

Here’s a brief rundown of all the thoughts barrelling through my head.

* Oh god, she remembers me writing that.
* On the upside, she still remembers me writing that. Must have meant a lot to her.
* Or she’s taking the piss
* She could be taking the piss
* If we assume that, then this train of thought comes to a dead end. Let’s try something else. Let’s assume that she’s not taking the piss, and see where that takes us.
* Maybe those letters really meant a lot to her. Maybe they brightened up a miserable, superficial existence that she secretly despised.
* Maybe they gave her a genuine boost to her self-esteem.
* Maybe her life went downhill once I lost interest in her.
* Oh good, another name to add to the trail of devastation.
* I think she’s probably just taking the piss.
* Thanks for reminding me of all that. Thanks a bunch.

About Me Gaming Gardening IAMOWIM Meander Music Parenting

Busy week

It’s been a busy week, which is why things have been quiet round here. Here’s what’s been going down.


Karen and I have spent a lot of time on the allotment. Whereas it did look like this, it now looks like this:


We’ve cleared a lot of brambles, dismantled the rotted cold frame, had a big bonfire, and put some carpet down to suppress weeds. We also found some rhubarb of the variety *Hey, Free Rhubarb!* and planted it in an appropriate location. It’s progress, definitely.

My first MP3 player

On Wednesday I got my first ever MP3 player. As you can see, I’m right on the cutting edge here.

It’s not even a state-of-the-art device. It’s a Creative Zen Stone, a little thing with 2 GB of storage and no LCD display. For £30, you can’t go far wrong. I also got a little FM transmitter so that I can play it through my car stereo, which is now over 5 years old.

Electrocuting myself

While investigating a faulty kitchen light, I think that I may have accidentally electrocuted myself. I have a small blister on my thumb, and one on my forefinger, where I pinched a screw. As far as I can see, it’s not radiating heat, so electrocution seems the likely candidate. In hindsight, it should have been obvious that said screw would be live.

Playing Tomb Raider

I rented Tomb Raider Anniversary for a week. I played the original, many years ago, and it’s interesting to see what has been added and what has been taken away. I’ve bought a second hand copy so that I can complete it at my leisure.

Teaching Bernard to spell his name

Not putting too much pressure on him at this early stage, obviously, but it does yield such gems as this one:

Bernard: “R”
Me: “No, that’s not an ‘r’, it’s an ‘n’.”
Bernard: “Buck, buck.”
Me: “Heh, not ‘hen’. ‘N’.”

About Me Stunt 2007

New Year’s Resolutions

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

I seem to have developed a very agreeable system. I’ve had it in place for a few years. I start writing my New Years Resolutions in the first week of January, and continue to quietly append to the list until somewhere around summer. Then, in October, I write a blog post revealing what they were, and how successful I’ve been ([2006] [2007]).

My first New Years Resolution for 2008 is therefore to continue to use this system.

*Next week’s stunt post will be on the subject of our new allotment – look out for it on Monday.*

About Me


I’ve realised one of the things that makes me what I am today.

I grew up in an environment where I believed that I was truly great. Perhaps not at sports, or in common social situations, but I believed that I was one of the most intelligent people that I knew. I got good results at school, and my parents where always telling me how wonderful I was.

As I got older, I started to spend more time with people who were smarter than me. First off, I went to University. Admittedly I came away with a first-class degree, so in that respect I must have been smarter than half of the people on my course, but already there’s clearly a shift occurring.

A year after graduating, I began my career in earnest. Since then I have worked alongside some very intelligent people, by whose presence I feel honestly daunted, despite the fact that I know that if you consider all aspects of them, not just their intelligence, they are no greater than I. I also read a lot of articles online by some very smart people, who are clearly experts in their field.

When all this is combined, I feel that there is not much space left for me. As a result of global connectivity, I feel that I am always a mouse click away from someone whose insight on a subject exceeds my own. Despite the fact that I am foolishly attempting to compete with the whole world here, I find myself feeling surplus to requirements. I want to write informative articles on this site, but I know that someone, somewhere, has already done it, with a great deal more knowledge and clarity than I could achieve.

So I no longer feel like a great person. I have surrounded myself with excellent people, and I look weak by comparison. I’m still trying to come to terms with this.

About Me

Crikey! Meme alert!

Karen told me to meme. I am to give you 8 random facts about me.

1. I live in a semi-detached house in England with my darling Karen and toddler Bernard
2. I am eighty feet tall
3. I am made entirely of titanium
4. I have rocket launchers for forearms
5. I have laser beams for eyes
6. I carry a satchel of kung po chicken on my knee.
7. I write computer software for a living
8. I do all sorts of things in my spare time

Of course, anybody who has read my About page will already know these things.

Now here are the rules:

1. Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules.
3. At the end of your blog, Chose people to get tagged and list their names. Or don’t. Who’s going to check?

If you are reading this and you have not already done this meme, then consider yourself tagged.

About Me Photos Stunt 2007

Stuff in my bag

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

The contents of my bag

The contents of my bag, which I purchased 3 months ago. You can buy one just like it from the National Trust if you so desire.

The contents of my bag

(Yes, the PNG is transparent, so you can overlay it on the JPG if you so desire).

1. The bag in question. It has lots of pockets – I count seven zips in total.
2. Moleskine notebook.
3. Uh, uh, papers, um, just papers, uh, you know, uh, my papers, business papers.
4. Diary. A6 Week-to-view diary, 13 months starting from July. I’ve been using this type of diary for three years now, and it seems to have become my “thing”.
5. Second camera again. Still a Pentax Optio S30. This is where it really lives. Observe the awesome hand-knitted pouch, created by the delectable Karen.
6. Car stereo fascia. It’s a Sony, about five years old. The FM tuner seems to be broken but it can still play CDs and receive traffic announcements, so replacing it isn’t high on my agenda.
7. Binoculars. Occasionally useful, which might surprise you.
8. Sturdy reusable plastic bag. Everyone should carry one of these.
9. Keys – house, car, bike lock, office.
10. Breath mints
11. Pens. I’m using one of the beige ones at the moment, but I think that it’s nearly run out.
12. 64MB Pen drive (rarely used)
13. Phone. Motorola Razr, nearly two years old. No plans to upgrade, at present. My ringtone is “Birdhouse In Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants.
14. Mini tripod
15. Loose change
16. Lip balm. I believe that this was purchase in Amsterdam in 2003. Ugh.
17. Wallet
18. Mag-lite

About Me Photos Stunt 2007

Stuff on my desk

*This is a companion piece to a similarly-themed article on Karen’s site which, all things being equal, should be published at roughly the same time.*

My desk

Here is my desk. It’s an Ikea Jerker that I bought about 14 months ago, when we moved into this house.

My desk (overlay)

(Yes, the PNG is transparent, so you can overlay it on the JPG if you so desire).

1. Three boxes. One contains AC adapters, one contains receipts, and one is labelled “Misc crap” and contains all those little things that you don’t have a real home for. Mounted on the underside of the shelf below these boxes is a little OSRAM LED lamp.
2. Red Dwarf videos. I’m currently going through a bit of a Red Dwarf phase, reliving my teenage years. One, or more, of these VHS tapes may have been acquired at a reduced rate by switching price labels in WHSmiths. Such a rebel, I was.
3. Camera box. Nikon D40. Haven’t quite got round to putting this box in the garage or loft or wherever. On top of it is my camera case.
4. Books. One that I’m reading, one that I’m yet to read, and my 2005-06 and 2006-07 diaries. Older diaries are kept in a storage box in the garage, but I like having my last two to hand, just in case.
5. My pyro box. Lighters, matches, and an ancient pack of Golden Virginia.
6. Audio cassettes. All the live recordings, taped rehearsals, and early albums by my old band. On top of this little box is my bank statement book, and in front of it are my watches.
7. Pile of Terror. One of these boxes is also labelled “Misc crap”. Everything in this pile has no home, but hopefully I will rectify this one day. It’s a low-priority thing, and to be honest, most of this stuff could probably be thrown away, and I would never notice.
8. Postcards that Karen brings me.
9. Keyboard. It’s a Casio CTK-671.
10. Monitor. It’s a Sony. It’s a good monitor, but still… Sony. Ugh. Sorry. Tucked beneath it is a hefty reusable plastic bag. In front, a notepad with a comb on it, and to the right of that is the magnet that opens the drawers down to the side of the desk.
11. Man bag.
12. 8 track. It’s a Yamaha MD-8. I don’t use this much any more, so it now lives under here, and can be slid out if/when I need it.
13. Keyboard. It’s a Microsoft. It’s a good keyboard, but still… Microsoft. Ugh. Sorry. Behind it is a cheap plastic toy that my dad brought back from China. Its purpose is to spin round, light up, and play the Crazy Frog theme. It worked twice, then broke. So sad.
14. Photo of Karen. Whenever Bernard sees this, he points and says “Mama” about thirty times in quick succession.
15. Margarine tub containing a secret project that I’m working on. In front of it are my two coasters, by Marcus Gray.
16. Backup CDs and burned Linux ISOs.
17. A4 paper for the printer. To the left, empty CD spindles.
18. Printer. HP Laserjet 4L.
19. Some old envelopes for the recycling box. I just left them here while I took the photo to make the place look untidy. I am smart like that.
20. Second camera. Pentax Optio S30. Again, it doesn’t normally live here, but it gatecrashed the photo shoot. Behind it, an empty CD spindle. In front of it, the lens cap for my camera.

What else is on the shelf with the monitor?

* Two speakers (Harman Kardon Soundsticks II, the woofer is down there on the floor, glowing blue).
* Letter rack, containing things to file, things to do something about, and envelopes.
* A little pile with some post-it notes and Carmex lip balm on top.
* Pen pots
* Camera manual
* Some more pieces of paper to deal with
* Spindle containing blank CDs.
* Desk lamp.
* On the wall, some photos.

How has my desk changed in the last year?

14 months ago, it looked like this. Those two shelves at the top used to contain a lot of junk, so I moved one of them down to act as a monitor shelf. This gives me more space to work with at keyboard level, and also allows me to raise the speakers by six inches, out of Bernard’s reach (he likes grabbing them and playing with them. I can understand why – they are quite lovely). And the 8-track, as I previously mentioned, is now underneath that shelf.

You can also see that I’ve installed the second side-shelf, and used it to make a nifty little keyboard stand (the other end of the keyboard rests on my bass amp). This has been in place for quite a long time now.

And finally, here’s a photo of my desk at the previous house. It’s only six months older, so much of the hardware is the same.

About Me Blogging Music

Resolution Conclusions 2007

*Hey, I did this last year too! Maybe it’s turning into a “thing”?!*

1: Blitz “to do” and “to buy” lists

Karen and I have a big “todo” list. It used to be a handwritten sheet of paper, pinned to the notice board, divided up into “things to do” and “things to buy”. Nowadays, it’s on a wiki, and it is basically divided up into “tasks for Karen” and “tasks for Pete”. The principle is the same.

Anyway, over the course of the year we’ve really kept on top of this list. Sure, lots of things have been added to it, but we’ve managed to keep it at roughly the same size, and there are very few items on there that have been on since the start of the year. I’m quite pleased with this.

2: Less computer time, more films

The most crucial point here was to spend less time surfing the Internet, pretending that absorbing all this data is good for me. Instead, I wanted to spend more time watching films, basking in the unashamed brainlessness of it all. I think I’ve succeeded, more or less. I’m sure that next year’s resolution will be something along the lines of “Less films, more blah”. Maybe computer games. If Rockstar released a “GTA San Andreas Stories” for the PS2 I’d be in heaven.

3: Quality, not quantity. Less reading and writing blogs

I’ve certainly managed to write less, and I feel like the quality is higher. However, I’m still reading more blogs than I need to. But it’s hard to stop myself, when there’s so many well-written sites out there.

4: Make more music

My actual resolution set a much more specific target, which I am not going to print here, for reasons of my own. Suffice to say, I have failed to meet this target in the most magnificent manner possible, despite having revised it downwards twice during the year. Some things just aren’t meant to be.

5: Stop being afraid of strangers

Who are you? Get away from me! Argh!

6: Keep writing with my pen held properly

Back story here. Towards the end of last year, I started making an effort to improve my grip. Basically, this resolution has been an unquestionable success. I now hold a pen like a normal human being. This is so fucking awesome.

7: Less nostalgia

Another success. I used to dwell on the past, thinking about all those good times that passed me by in the blink of an eye. But now I realise that one day, I’ll look back on today (or hereabouts) and wish that I hadn’t wasted so much time being nostalgic. There was the threat of a vicious cycle there, but I’ve managed to break it, and now I am able to appreciate every moment as it happens.

8: Be a leader, not a follower


9: Stop worrying about other peoples’ blogs. Their spam comments, botched templates and missing alt-tags are their own problems


10: When someone sends you a link saying “Click this, it’s really funny/cute” then don’t, because it’s just that sneezing panda yet again.

As mentioned here. Haven’t seen the sneezing panda since.

11: Get some exercise


12: Get a project

Had one, but it went away again. I’m not sure whether that counts as a success or not. I should have been more explicit in my statement of the resolution (ie, “Get, and keep, a project”).

13: Improve posture

*Straightens back.*

Uhm… yes.

14: Don’t be so crap at making new friends. Actually, just see #5

Marginally better. But I’m still very bad at this whole “small talk” thing. Maybe I should see this as a strength, rather than a weakness.

15: Learn a bit of Polish

When we were contemplating a short weekend away in Warsaw, this seemed like a very worthwhile resolution. But then we changed our plan and decided to go to Center Parcs instead, so the resolution seemed less important. Still, I’d like to learn some Polish one day (I’m a quarter Polish, by the way) so it’s still something that I’d like to do.

16: Don’t keep getting up from the table in the middle of meals

On Karen’s request (though I added it to the resolutions list voluntarily). I am getting better at this, but I’m not yet perfect.

17: Take time in conversation

By which I mean, don’t just blurt out any old nonsense. Stop, think, come up with an intelligent response. This doesn’t really sit well with #14, as small talk needs to be relatively rapid-fire, so I don’t think that I’ll be able to do both. If you take too much time coming up with a carefully-executed reply, you tend to find that your audience has walked away. Meh, their loss.

18: When on the phone at work, replace “Cheers” with “Goodbye” and “No problem” with “You’re Welcome”

A bit more formality is probably appropriate in this environment. This one was quite a recent addition to the list, so will probably be carried over to next year.